Jacques Potgieter’s previous stint in SA was way back in 2017 with the Bulls. (Gallo Images)
- The Cheetahs have given Jacques Potgieter a simple brief when he makes his first start for his new franchise against the Pumas: be as robust as a Duane Vermeulen.
- The enigmatic 34-year-old flanker, who has played for the Boks three times, has struggled for consistency in the latter stages of his career, but coach Hawies Fourie believes if he keeps things simple, his fortunes will change.
- Potgieter’s biggest challenge will be his conditioning though it seems he’s been doing well on the fitness front.
He goes by the nickname “Jackpot”, but the Cheetahs are banking on Jacques Potgieter rather copying Duane Vermeulen’s “Thor” routine.
The enigmatic 34-year-old flanker, a three-cap Springbok who’s polarised opinion continually, will make his first appearance since signing for the central franchise last month when they take on the Pumas in a preparation series encounter in Nelspruit on Friday.
It will be the first time in over two years that he plays a competitive match.
“It’s his debut for us, but at least he’s been part of our squad for over a month now,” said Hawies Fourie, the Cheetahs’ head coach.
“I want him to focus on the things that he does well. He’s a good ball-carrier and aggressive defender. Those are the two skills I want him to prioritise.
“Simply put, I want him to cause damage.”
15 Devon Williams, 14 Etienne Taljaard, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Tapiwa Mafura, 10 Eddie Fouche, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Francois Kleinhans, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Darrien Landsberg, 4 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain), 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Morgan Naude
Substitutes: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Dewald Maritz, 18 Ruan Kramer, 19 Jaco Willemse, 20 Kwanda Dimaza, 21 Phumzile Maqondwana, 22 Ginter Smuts, 23 Wayne van der Bank
15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Malcolm Jaer, 13 Chris Smit, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Craig Barry, 10 Reinhardt Fortuin, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Jacques Potgieter, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Cameron Dawson
Substitutes: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Conrad van Vuuren, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Rosko Specman
The simplicity of Fourie’s expectations of Potgieter is a refreshing change in outlook.
One of the reasons perhaps why the injury-ravaged utility forward, who’ll slot in at eighthman in the Lowveld, hasn’t been able to shrug off the perception that he’s one-dimensional is because he’s been unfairly tasked with wearing too many hats.
It certainly didn’t help that one outstanding campaign with the Waratahs in 2014 led to critics arguing foreign coaches got more out of him than their South African counterparts, who were accused of using him as a battering ram.
Simply put, it later became a case of no-one seemingly knowing what’s the most effective way to use Potgieter.
“The reason we contracted him is because he does certain things very well and we want him to show us that,” said Fourie.
“I want him to make an impact when he’s carrying the ball and when the Pumas are in possession, he needs to do damage as a defender.
“I don’t want Jacques to throw double skip passes or sidestep his defenders. He just needs to do what he’s good at.”
While the brief is clear, it will still require Potgieter to show a fair amount of conditioning though Fourie is confident his experienced new recruit will be up to the challenge.
“There were a few times this week during training when some of the players’ eyes became distinctly wider when Jacques was running at them. He showed a lot of intent and one could clearly see he’s ready for the physical battle. One could say he’s even looking forward to it,” said Fourie.
“I suppose we’ll have a better idea of where he is after the game. The biggest challenge for Jacques will be to maintain a high work rate for 60 to 80 minutes.
“It’s one thing to carry the ball effectively three or four times during a game. I want Jacques to do that eight to ten times.”
Kick-off in Nelspruit is at 16:45.